One week into the election campaign, and both main parties are deep into unsustainable promises. Malcolm Turnbull’s Coalition is pledging tax cuts to business that are predicated on growth rates that few economists believe can be achieved. The Australian Labor Party’s Bill Shorten is spraying money around like confetti with no spreadsheets to show definitively how even half of his promises can be achieved.
Waiting for the outcome of the July 2 poll are the ratings agencies, ready and willing to pull Australia’s Triple A rating. Moodys has gone public in canvassing this possibility, frightening the ALP’s finance spokesman, Chris Bowen, into pledging to bringing the Budget deficit under control, even if it means sacrificing some pledges.
After one week of non-stop campaigning by Turnbull and Shorten, the polls have Labor nudging ahead, a far cry from last Christmas when the Coalition appeared to have an unassailable lead. The first television debate, in the form of a peoples’ forum conducted by Sky News in an outer Sydney suburb, was deemed to have been won by Shorten, largely because the questions were mostly on subjects close to ALP desires, particularly education, which Labor has made the central focus of its campaign.
Shorten has also opened up a divide between the main parties that can only be described as class warfare. Shorten repeatedly uses the term “big end of town” to describe big business and the wealthy as Turnbull’s focus, never failing to remind that the prime minister fits into this category, and is therefore “out of touch”. In this he has had support from an unexpected quarter – Peta Credlin, the controversial chief of staff of the man Turnbull ousted, former prime minister Tony Abbott. Ms Credlin, now a commentator on Sky News, referred to Turnbull as “Mr Harbourside” in a discussion on the class welfare issue, a reference to the Turnbull multi-million dollar mansion on the waterfront of one of Sydney’s most prestigious suburbs.
A major thrust of Shorten’s fairness campaign is strong opposition to a gradual cut in company tax that brings them down from 30% to 25% over ten years, with smaller firms getting cut from 28% to 27.5% later this year. However the ALP leader conveniently omits the delayed timing of the cut to big companies, and argues the prime minister is putting his corporate friends before families. He also fails to point out that a surge in spending on education will not have immediate results, if at all. The Gillard government, of which he was a member, greatly increased education spending, but standards in schools have fallen sine then.
The Coalition is hoping its message that lower company taxes equates with higher growth, more jobs, and benefits to families will start getting through to voters. So far that has not happened, but there is still six weeks before the election.Predictions on the result now would be premature.